Because progesterone contributes to the well-being of a number of body systems and organs - such as the brain, heart, immune system, and others, maintaining healthy progesterone levels is crucial. Continue reading to learn more about normal progesterone levels and its importance, including the negative side effects of a progesterone imbalance.
Ranges of Normal Progesterone Levels
Average Daily Progesterone Levels
This table shows the average daily progesterone levels for a woman at varying times during and after her reproductive years. Measurements are taken from blood serum and provided in ng/mL (nanograms/milliliter); moreover, measured levels of progesterone can fluctuate depending on the type of test taken.
A woman of reproductive age will have daily progesterone levels ranging from 0.1 - 25 ng/mL. Progesterone is lower during the follicular stage - first half - of the menstrual cycle and rises during the luteal phase - second half - after ovulation, only for the cycle to repeat again if fertilization didn't occur.
Healthy progesterone levels can range between 10 - 290 ng/mL. Progesterone levels will begin to rise steadily starting around the ninth week of pregnancy and will continue increasing until around the 32nd week of pregnancy. Progesterone production switches from the corpus luteum to the placenta around week 12 to maintain the pregnancy.
Daily progesterone levels will usually hover between 0.1 - 1 ng/mL. Because the corpus luteum created from the ruptured follicle after ovulation is the main contributor of progesterone, when menstrual cycles officially end, so does the majority of the production of progesterone. Although, with HRT and other treatments, total progesterone levels can increase to premenopausal numbers.
Importance of Normal Progesterone Levels
As aforementioned, the effects of healthy progesterone levels span far beyond the reproductive system, starting with the onset of menses and extending into postmenopause. The following are just a few examples of progesterone's contributions to overall health.
- Protects the cervix from ascending infection
- Increases endometrial receptivity for embryo implantation
- Modulates inflammation to support healthy immunity
- Prepares the breasts for milk production
- Prevents the body from ovulating
- Helps maintain the pregnancy
- Produces calming, anti-anxious, and memory-enhancing effects
- Safeguards the brain from damage
- Assists estrogen with maintaining bone mass
- Lowers blood pressure
- Helps prevent the onset of breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancer
Keep in mind that even though many of the aforementioned effects are sectioned into the three life stages, they are interchangeable, where applicable.
Read more about progesterone's role and effects for a heightened understanding of the breadth of the hormone's impact in the female body.
What Happens When Progesterone Levels are High?
Because levels of progesterone fluctuate on a daily basis, one's current progesterone range is widely based on age, current stage of the menstrual cycle, and other factors, such as habits that could be promoting estrogen dominance.
Nonetheless, a progesterone imbalance in which levels are abnormally high or low can provoke a variety of negative effects.
Excess progesterone can cause drowsiness or insomnia, headaches, migraines, and depression. Women may also experience anxiety and changes in appetite among other symptoms that include vaginal dryness, itchiness, and swelling due to reduced and thickened vaginal secretions. Moreover, high progesterone levels can lead to breast tenderness and scantier, longer menstrual periods with abnormal spotting between cycles.
Increased progesterone levels during a pregnancy could signify the presence of a molar pregnancy, which causes abnormal uterine tissue growth due to a genetic error. The fetus doesn't form properly in the womb, preventing further baby development.
Women who suffer from high progesterone levels may also experience joint pain with accompanied muscle aches. In addition, with a buildup of progesterone in fatty tissues, hormone receptor sites can eventually become nonfunctional. This can cause an over-stimulatory effect by the estrogen in the body – now unopposed with ineffective progesterone – and adversely affect the heart, inducing heart attack-like symptoms.
Read more information about high progesterone levels, including its signs and symptoms.
What Happens When Progesterone Levels are Low?
Low progesterone levels may lead to the appearance of ovarian cysts, which are characteristic of a condition known as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), as the body contains excessive estrogen in proportion to progesterone. Low progesterone can also lead to frequent, heavy periods or an absence of periods. Likewise, the body may become worn out by hormone imbalance, weakening immune and circulatory system functions. In this case, allergies may arise, causing hives, rashes, and other skin conditions.
Low progesterone levels can lead to a condition known as luteal phase defect, in which there is an improper endometrial lining for embryo implantation. This could lead to infertility or the loss of an early pregnancy. Moreover, some women are known to experience mood changes associated with low levels of progesterone during post-partum depression.
It is not uncommon for healthy progesterone levels to dip in the shadow of dominating estrogen levels after menstrual years, causing tender and cystic breasts. Often times, vaginal dryness will also occur with abnormal vaginal bleeding, sometimes triggered by the onset of endometrial cancer. Additionally, because a key role of estrogen and progesterone together is to increase bone density, low progesterone levels may be associated with bone loss. Furthermore, similar to post-partum, low levels of progesterone during the menopausal transition can trigger mood swings and high levels of anxiety.
To resolve any ambiguities in regards to progesterone balance and its impact on overall health and well-being, continue reading to learn more about low progesterone levels and its causes.
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